Strasbourg, 23 November 2007

CCJE(2007)11 Final

Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)

Implementation of the report to the Committee of Ministers on measures to make proper use of CCJE opinions in member states (Document CCJE(2006)4)

Introduction

In the Action Plan adopted at their Third Summit (Warsaw, 16-17 May 2005), the Heads of State and Government of members states of the Council of Europe decided “to make proper use of the opinions given by the CCJE in order to help member states to deliver justice fairly and rapidly and to develop alternative means for the settlement of disputes”.

In order to implement this Action Plan, the Committee of Ministers (956th meeting of Ministers’ Deputies on 15 February 2006) instructed the CCJE to “prepare… a report containing detailed proposals on the measures to be taken in order to make proper use in member states of the opinions given by the CCJE”.

At its 7th plenary meeting, the CCJE adopted a report “on measures to be taken in order to make proper use in member states of the opinions given by the CCJE” (Document CCJE(2006)4), which it brought to the attention of the Committee of Ministers at its 985th meeting (31 January 2007).

A year after the adoption of this report, the CCJE, who wanted its activities to be as effective and practical as possible, decided to review the implementation of the various measures advocated to ensure a better use of its opinions.

The result of this review appears in the following table, together with suggestions for further improving the CCJE’s activities in member states, where appropriate.

Competencies of the CCJE

Current situation

Suggestions

General “bridging role” between national judiciaries and the Committee of Ministers 

The CCJE is represented at numerous meetings held by national and international bodies.

Professional associations of judges send representatives to CCJE meetings as observers ( European Association of Judges (EAJ); “Magistrats européens pour la démocratie et les libertés” (MEDEL); the European Federation of Administrative Judges; the Groupement des Magistrats pour la médiation (GEMME); the European Network of Judicial Training (ENJT); the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ)).

Make use of the CCJE’s presence at meetings organised by national and international bodies to address topical matters and thus show that the CCJE is responding to current issues concerning the judicial system.

-Invite other relevant bodies to become observers in the CCJE:

- should one invite other bodies such as the “Association des Conseils d’Etat et des juridictions administratives suprêmes » or the Network of the Presidents of European Supreme Courts of the European Union?

- should one limit observers only “judges”?

Depending on the topics to be addressed at meetings (opinions or other), invite relevant bodies and individuals, including non-judges, to explore the issues in greater depth.

Inform, or better, involve the ECHR or the ECJ in the CCJE work.

To put into effect the existing cooperation with other bodies of the Council of Europe (CEPEJ, CCPE) and elaborate, if necessary, recommendations to the CDCJ and the CDPC regarding the opportunity of new legal instruments.

The CCJE’s advisory role

The CCJE prepares roughly one opinion per year for the Committee of Ministers on issues related to the independence, impartiality and competence of judges.

In order to emphasise its particular strengths, the CCJE should take care to present the specific viewpoint of judges on the subject of the opinion, without going into a general description of the issue.

In order to widen its scope of activities, the CCJE could be consulted by Council of Europe bodies and asked to comment on any issue concerning the judicial system where it might be useful to have a judicial opinion.

Dissemination and accessibility of opinions

Council of Europe publications containing CCJE opinions and dissemination of this material.

A specific budget should be set aside for updating and printing the CCJE brochure as well as the compilation of CCJE Opinions, which was not the case in 2007.

Since the end of 2006, the CCJE has a new, more comprehensive and user-friendly website, which is updated daily (since January 2007, the number of visits to the site has more than doubled compared with January 2006).

Turn the CCJE website into a facility serving the needs of all European judges, not just members of the CCJE. CCJE members could also make suggestions on how the site might be improved in this respect.

The Council of Europe publishes all the opinions in English and French. They are also available on the CCJE website in Spanish, Estonian, German, Macedonian, Romanian and Russian.

CCJE members should be encouraged to have the opinions translated into other national languages.

Many judges do not speak English or French and so cannot make use of the CCJE’s opinions.

A standard formula should be inserted at the end of the opinions, encouraging states to have them translated into their national languages (eg. “In order to facilitate the dissemination of this Opinion, member States should ensure, where possible, its translation in their national language”).

CCJE members advertise the opinions themselves in their respective states.

Arrange for the opinions to be made available in all court libraries and on all court websites, and sent to judges’ associations and justice ministries in the member states.

Following the adoption of each CCJE opinion, the Secretariat could e-mail the opinion to all the relevant ministries, courts and libraries in member states, provided that each CCJE member supplies it with a list of e-mail addresses.

Organising the European Conferences of Judges

On average every two years, the CCJE holds a European Conference of Judges on the subject of the forthcoming opinion, in order to spur on a debate. These conferences are intended for judges of all levels, from all the member states.

The CCJE should carry on organising these conferences, on topical or original themes concerning judges, taking care to invite prominent figures from outside the CCJE who can provide CCJE members with views that complement those expressed at CCJE meetings.

These conferences could benefit from having a co-organiser, possibly a national judicial body. In this regard, a financial support to the Conference budget could be helpful.

Depending on the subject-matter, non-judges could also be invited to attend and address the conferences.

The Council of Europe, through its communication department, should take steps to improve the advertising campaign of these conferences.  

Practical assistance to states

Under its terms of reference, the CCJE may be called upon to assist states and national judicial bodies in dealing with specific judicial problems. In the past, this was performed by the Working Group at one of its meetings in a member state.

This task is not being performed as well as it could owing to lack of time and resources (financial and human). The meetings should be organised according to the needs of states or judicial bodies and not simply to coincide with CCJE-GT meetings. The CCJE members attending these meetings should be chosen on the basis of their expertise in the area concerned (specialist teams should be set up). This activity should enable the CCJE to form closer, practical ties with national bodies responsible for the independence of judges or judicial training.

It might be possible to invite, if necessary, the CCJE to give specific opinions (or expert evaluations) on changes in domestic law concerning judges.

The CCJE could decide to introduce a specific tool (to be agreed) as a result of these meetings, containing guidelines and/or practical measures that could then serve as a reference on selected topics (alongside the opinions).

CCJE’s ability to respond rapidly to specific problems

In 2006 and 2007, the CCJE’s advice was sought in connection with situations in Romania, Spain, Slovenia and Italy. The CCJE responded in various ways, depending on the question. In the case of Romania, it gave an opinion very soon after being asked.

Council of Europe bodies should also be able to seek the CCJE’s opinion, which is not the case at present.

Organising hearings and partnerships enabling the CCJE to obtain more specific information about certain aspects relevant to judges.

This task is not being performed as well as it could.

The CCJE needs to raise the profile of its work among national and international bodies.

Hearings and partnerships could be organised, provided that this is done within the framework of other tasks.

The CCJE should also improve the exchange of information with other bodies competent in the judicial field, in order to avoid duplication.



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